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Everywhere we go, we’re being sold something: The Ultimate Driving Machine, the world’s most comfortable bed, a drink that gives you wings.

But one of the most memorable – and effective – marketing campaigns of recent years revolves around a spokesman who barely uses the product. He is ... the Most Interesting Man in the World. “I don’t always drink beer,” he growls, “but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

This campaign, which helped turn a regional brew into the nation’s sixth-best-selling import, is proof of the power of non- branded marketing content. In this case, the message entertains, but remember our stories can inspire and inform as well.

Write with a Purpose

Does your product solve a problem? Explore that problem, the available solutions and even why your approach is best. But don’t make all your content about your product. In fact, limit your branded content to just 25 percent of everything you do. The rest of the time, help your customers and prospects by inspiring, informing and entertaining them.

On television, The Most Interesting Man in the World always holds up
 a bottle of Dos Equis, but only for a moment, and only at the end.

So many content creation projects get off on the wrong foot. They begin with a statement like, “I think we need a whitepaper about our new product.” But that’s broadcasting, like on television. We want to start a two-way conversation, like one on the telephone.

Let’s ask ourselves three questions about this content, and about any content:

• Who do we want to reach? 

• What do we want them to learn?

• What do we want them to do?

Know Who You’re Writing For

Determining the audience for a piece of content goes beyond people in need of a product or service. It asks where they are in the buying cycle. 

Deciding what the audience should learn goes well beyond a sales pitch into context, their other options, even how theymight be inspired, informed, and entertained.

Finally, the question that often goes unasked: What should the reader do? Pick up the phone and call someone? Agree
 to an in-person meeting? Subscribe to a newsletter? Share the content?

Make sure to have a goal in mind for each piece of content, and make it one you can measure.

Consider Your Options

With your purpose clear, it’s time to select a format for your content. For years, the default option was the whitepaper. Companies made available thousands of whitepapers in an effort to demonstrate their expertise in every imaginable pursuit. Most of them had one thing in common: They were dull.

Whitepapers certainly still have a place, especially in support of business-to-business transactions that involve sizable investments and long sales cycles. But many companies are looking for easier reads. These include:

Ebooks – The whitepaper’s cooler cousin mixes text and illustrations and serves them up on smaller, livelier pages in an effort to make reading easier. Ebooks seem to work best when limited to about 15 pages and when every page or two covers a very specific subject denoted with a strong headline.

Byline articles – Want more credibility for your content? The time- and resource- strapped traditional news and trade media are ready to help. Just provide them with an original article about something their readers care about that meets their editorial guidelines.

Blog posts – Perhaps the most undervalued of all marketing content forms, the blog post can be a great vehicle when done right. Keep the authority high and the branding low, and use social media to let prospects know it’s there. “If you build it, they will come” only happens in baseball movies. Content has to be shared, and that sharing starts with you.

Infographics – These days it seems everyone wants an infographic. And why not? A good infographic is a quick and easy read. Just make sure before you invest the time that you’ve got content worth sharing and a reason to share it.

Videos – The animated explainer video seems to be giving way to a quicker,less expensive version that uses livelier audio and simpler graphics. Video can beextremely effective, but again, it needs a purpose. And it needs to be 70 secondsor less.

Integration Is a Must

Before you pull the trigger on any content effort, ask yourself a simple but important question: How will this fit into everything else my marketing organization is doing?

Way too much time is spent on content that gets posted to websites never to be seen again. Quite often these are blog posts are written on a topic that isn’t central to the overall marketing effort or relevant to the organization’s message.

Marketing content is a puzzle made up of individual pieces, and each piece needs a place. So absolutely write that whitepaper or eBook, but share it on social media, offer it to customers in an email, and share it with prospects in exchange for an email address you can drop into a drip campaign.

The bottom line is to decide how the content fits into your overall plans before you even begin planning the piece. Check back next week for the third post in this series.



Thanks for visiting the Idea Grove blog, where you’ll get regular insights on all things PR and digital marketing. Our agency got its start when founder Scott Baradell created this blog in 2005. Today, you can find many of Scott’s early posts at Media Orchard.